Sunday, December 21, 2014

Simon Leys on Balzac

The renowned sinologist and literary critic Pierre Ryckmans (known by his pen name Simon Leys) on Honoré de Balzac's writing and self-editing:

Balzac's prose is littered with ludicrous conceits, mixed metaphors, clichés and various manifestations of naiveté and bad taste. Mere haste and negligence cannot fully account for so much awkwardness; although his first drafts were often dashed off at astounding speed and in enormous creative bursts, Balzac was also a painstaking, obsessive--and notorious--re-writer. His revisions, corrections, re-corrections and corrections of re-corrections that swelled into the margins of his galley proofs, smothering the printed text under their exuberant growth, famously drove typesetters to fury and despair.

From: Simon Leys, "Balzac," in The Hall of Uselessness: Collected Essays (New York: New York Review of Books, 2013), p. 61.